The ENGINE OF CAPITALISM - GREED Backing Up To Run Over Freedom Again.


Thursday, May 03, 2018


"God... a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive."
Ayn Rand
I think, if you look it up, Sir Francis Bacon is credited with saying, “money is a good servant but a bad master”.  Actually, it was an old French proverb, far older even than the Elizabethan politician, and Sir Francis merely quoted it – and in French, “L’argent est un bon serviteur, mais un méchant maître.” His own original observation (in English) about money said the same thing, but was as prosaic as fertilizer. “Money is like muck,” Sir Francis said, “not good except it be spread.”
"The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind."
Ayn Rand
You see Sir Francis believed in the biblical warning that “The love of money is the root of all evil” (Timothy 6:10) , and that a buck in your hand is worth a buck, but a dollar spread through the economy is worth several more. You buy a loaf of bread and you employ the baker and the driver who delivers it, and the check-out clerk, etc. Amongst economists this is called the “velocity of money multiplier effect”, or the VMME, and most economists multiply each dollar spent on bread by six.. This is the material logic which – in addition to Judeo-Christian and Islamic morality - justifies food stamps and unemployment insurance.  And yet, today's devotees of Ayan Rand, like Republican Majority Leader Paul Ryan, do not believe in the VMME. They believe wealthy Americans should act only out of self interest while the working poor, aka the middle class, should sacrifice for the good of the nation. Heads the bankers win, tails, anybody who borrows from a banker, looses.
"We will rebuild America’s system on the moral premise...that man is an end in himself."
Ayan Rand Atlas Shrugged
According to Wikipedia, “A bank connects customers that have capital deficits to customers with capital surpluses.” But in the post “Citizens Untied” world, where a Supreme Court majority can believe that corporations have the same rights of free speech as individuals – and enough money to reduce “Free Speech” to an oxymoron - money has become the master. Five American banks now hold – hold - more than $8.5 trillion in assets – 56% of America's $15 trillion economy.  These mega-bankers practice zombie capitalism, trading their cash surpluses back and forth between themselves, hedging their equity by shifting the money from this pocket to that, paying themselves a bonus every time their computers shift the funds. At some point reality must intervene in this monetary computer game world, as J.P. Morgan discovered yet again in recently. And when it does, the destructive effect is suffered by the nation as a whole. Sacrifice might be required, but only for those who cannot afford to live in the fantasy world of 21st century mega-bankers.
"I will never live for the sake of another man."
Ayan Rand Atlas Shrugged
It brings to mind an observation once made by a very angry young man. He wrote, “There have been gambling manias before... (but) the ruling principle of the...the present mania, is... to speculate in speculation...” The angry man was Karl Marx, and he was writing about the swindle of the moment in September of 1856, the collapse of the Royal British Bank.  It was a fabulous enterprise which seemed solid as granite at one moment and in the next a cruel fraud and a fantasy. And the most interesting thing about the case, besides the moral lessons the father of Communism saw in it, is that the bankers who perpetrated it actually went to jail, however briefly, without bringing down capitalism.
"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction."
Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged
The Royal British Bank, created in 1849, was innovative. Previously, banking had been a rich man's game. Those with money had banded together to lend to those who could afford to borrow it. But the fortunes created by the industrial revolution were not exclusively blue blooded, and both blue blood and non-blue blooded advanced thinkers in Scotland invented the publicly owned bank, in which small investors with some extra cash could combine their money, and once they had sold L50,000 in stock, could open their doors and begin accepting accounts and lending money to make a profit. In this case the idea belonged to Londoner John Menzies, who suggested the idea to his lawyer, Edward Mullins. They printed up a prospectus, and went looking for investors. But as England was in the middle of a recession (its fourth “Panic” since 1817) they found little money around, until they approached John McGregor, a Liberal Party politician representing Glasgow, Scotland. For the price of ten shares – at L10 per share –McGregor achieved a seat on the board of the bank. He immediately suggested the board hire an old friend of his who had knowledge of the “Scottish style” of banking, fellow MP Hugh Innes Cameron.
"If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject."
Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged
Cameron was offered the position of Managing Director of the Royal British Bank. And with McGregor's help, Mr. Cameron obtained a seven year contract which would impress any modern equity or hedge fund manager. The first year Cameron would be paid L1250 (equivalent to $2 million today) , rising to L2,000 a year ($4.5 million today), with an annual housing allowance of L200 (about a hundred thousand modern dollars). Within a few months he had squeezed out Mr. Menzies, buying out the bank's founder with L400 of investors' money. Now there was nobody looking over his shoulder.
"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans...they were the people who created the phrase "to make money”.
Ayan Rand Atlas Shrugged
From that moment, the bank never stood a chance of surviving. Instead of the L50,000 the law required and appeared on it's books, at its opening the Royal British Bank actually had no more than L18,000 in its vault. Over the next six years, while the 6,000 depositors supplied the salaries, advances and loans never repaid to the officers and directors of the bank, each of those men became involved in enumerable kickbacks, scams and frauds which removed even more of the customers'/ investor's  funds -  about L130,000, or the equivalent of $247 million today). The whole thing collapsed in the summer of 1856, producing, yet another nation wide “Panic”, which taught so much to the Father of Communism..
"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me."
Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged
John McGregor was forced to escape his the law by sailing to Boulogne, France. He died deeply in debt in April of 1857.  In February of 1859 the seven surviving board members were finally tried on seven counts of fraud. The jury convicted them of six. At sentencing the judge, Lord Cameron, could have been speaking directly to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan when that firm lost between $2 billion and $7 billion in the 2007 derivative collapse.  “It would be a disgrace to the laws of any country” said the judge 150 years ago, “if this were not a crime to be punished. It is not a mere breach of contract with the shareholders and the customers of the bank., but it is a criminal conspiracy to do what must inevitably lead to a great public mischief, in the ruin of families and the reduction of widows and orphans from affluence to destitution; I regret to say that in mitigation of your offense it was said to be common practice. Unfortunately a laxity has been introduced into certain commercial dealings...and practises have been adopted without bringing in a consciousness of shame...”
"When I die, I hope to go to Heaven, whatever the Hell that is. And I want to be able to afford the price of admission."
Ayn Rand
Because it was his first conviction, Hugh Innes Cameron could only be sentenced to a year in jail. All the other board members received lesser sentences, and one was only fined a single shilling. The scandal sold a few newspapers, and produced a marvelous pamphlet, “The Curious and Remarkable History of the Royal British Bank showing how We Got it Up and How it went down.” But judging by recent history, nobody learned anything from the affair, or any of the other enumerable “Panics”, recessions and depressions which have stricken capitalist economies once or twice every decade since.  I think we learn nothing because greed makes you stupid, and the mega-bankers and their paid political apologists are purveyors of greed and thus are selling and buying stupidity . And we have known how that philosophy plays out since biblical days. To acknowledge this reality and yet not deal with it is to acknowledge you are a zombie, addicted to greed, and without hope of ever learning a better future. Like Ayn Rand.
"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."
Ayn Rand
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